Enrico Bronzi on the Music of Nino Rota

I have long been a fan of Italian film music of the 60’s and 70’s. Rota was truely one of the most important and influential composers of his generation, the generation that would influence such greats as Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and many others. Rota of course (like many other film composers) had a “Classical Music” side to his work. I had a chance to chat with conductor Enrico Bronzi about his disc of Rota Concertos on the Concerto label.

Enrico, can you tell us a little bit about the Rota project? What inspired you to make this recording? Why these particular compositions?
For a while now I have been looking for an opportunity to study the Concerto n. 2 for cello. So when the Musici di Parma asked me to join them in a project regarding Rota, naturally my reaction was to join them immediately. This recording brings together all aspects of my life as a musician: chamber music, work as a soloist and conducting.

Can you describe for us where Nino Rota fits in the Italian Music Landscape (historically speaking)?
Rota’s music is like breathing Italian air. His vocation for melody originates in the lyric traditions of my hometown. Often his music is tinged with a typically Mediterranean mood. It can be playful: in it he frequently alludes to particular sounds, such as a band from southern Italy or the circus. However, he does know where the limits lie and it is done with a gentlemanliness, which keeps everything from becoming mere imitation. And this sense of ‘moderation in all things’ is part of the education of that refined aristocrat from the south, which is a part of the foundations of our culture.

What do you see as being Rota’s most important compositions outside of the film works? What makes these pieces important?
Rota’s concert music is contiguous with his music for film. It is sophisticated music that has absorbed all of the lessons of European music. And yet it is not music that feigns solemnity or zeal. When Morricone writes ‘serious’ music, he does it disowning the poetry of his film music. Rota, on the other hand, just enlarges and reinforces the poetic structure of his pieces. We never get the impression that the joy exuding from his enormous melodic streak is running out.

What would you like this recording you’ve made to achieve both in Italy and abroad?
I hope this recording will be considered a step toward rediscovering this great composer’s recorded music. Many have begun to re-evaluate all angles of his music and I believe the public will not have to work at all to appreciate him. I am thinking of some rather silly and useless criticisms leveled at Poulenc. In the end the coherence of these authors is worth more than an aesthetic credo or the poorly placed problems regarding the avant-garde. Let it be understood I am a big fan of a wide variety of very different composers, such as Zimmermann, Ligeti, Kurtag. Our age is a Tower of Babel of different and diverse languages. But if we know how to listen we will be able to understand the beauty that can be found in opposites.

While some people in America are familiar with Rota’s film music, by and large his “Classical Compositions” still remain somewhat obscure (when speaking in terms of the “Classical mainstream”), why do you think this is?
For many years, in Europe, there was, basically, a kind of censorship regarding this composer who was so far removed from any of the beacons of the avant-garde in the last century. Given that 20th century American music is not so very different from Rota’s aesthetic cannons, I think that, in the United States, he could be warmly welcomed. For people who enjoy Copland or Bernstein, admiring Rota’s spontaneous and luminous music should come naturally.

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Part II: Cello in the Sun: Целло ин тхе сун – St. Petersburg 2009

Here is the continuation of Sean Hickey’s recording experience in Russia. Next morning: full dress rehearsal at the Palace goes surprisingly well. The final movement is still challenging. A fast 3/8 flourish that begins the movement still sounds sloppy and … Read More →

Artist Profile: Pianist Ralph van Raat

This will be the first of a sereis of email conversations I’ll be having with pianist (and Naxos recording artist) Ralph van Raat. After contacting Ralph about this project we quickly become friends and found ourselves chatting about more than the music. Here is the first round of questions I had / have for Mr. van Raat. enjoy!

-What do you have going on this summer musically?

Usually, I spend my holidays mostly by learning a lot of new repertoire for the coming concert season. I deliberately (and almost traditionally) reserve a period of several weeks in this period without any concerts or other engagements, to fully concentrate myself at making a good start with all those new works. Obviously, the process of learning new works continues throughout the whole year, but then all the attention has to be divided between many things, such as concertizing, lecturing, and practising. It always turns out to be an absolutely amazing and enjoyable experience to put aside these things for a while and just plunge into all those exciting new projects! Another exciting thing is the recording of two new CD’s for Naxos, right at the end of summer, which I am greatly looking forward to.

-Where will you be taking your Holiday?

Holidays will take me this year to a rather quiet place in southern France – a very small village near Avignon – where there is, in fact, no piano or whatsoever. I used not to take holidays and continue to work for many years, however, retreating into silence, quietness and into your own world of thought for a while, with many books and good food, turns out to be very inspiring and refreshing, too…

-You’re a Pilot? When did aviation start to interest you and how did this interst develop?

It is almost hard to remember when aviation started to interest me, as my interest (like with music) started before I was born (at least – that is the way it feels!!). It had always been a dilemma for me in what area to try and pursue a career – aviation or music. At 14, I took a glider flying course. I was at high school, and mostly had time for my interests (playing the piano and flying) during the weekends. I noticed that, despite my enthusiasm for flying, the passion for music won more often. Unfortunately I had to make a decision how to spend my time, and after two years I chose to spend as much time as I could on a music career. However, the dream of flying never let go of me. Once I studied at the conservatory, I was happy to win some competitions not only because it helped my career, but also because I thought that it would bring the prospect of being able to fly more close: at least as a passenger, travelling to foreign concert venues, but perhaps even for private flying, some day….And sometime ago I decided to make that dream come true and plunge into a PPL course.

I can say, that it is the best of life, combining the worlds of music and aviation. I mutually learn from them: music has to do with a lot of mental and practical preparation; with finding a balance between reason and emotion (i.e. taking passion into control); and with the final performance as a critical moment where all knowledge comes together at once. With flying, I recognize many of the same issues and processes. You prepare your flight carefully, the route, the circumstances such as weather, your fuel etc. Then the flight itself can be seen as the performance, where it comes down to passion, skills and knowledge, like in a concert. During a flight, you have to take many things into account in order to arrive where you want to arrive, such as the action of wind. That is very similar to adjusting your musical performance to the acoustics of the concert hall and the ‘mood’ of the audience, in order to shape the ‘destination’ (or goals) of your concert performance. So in fact, flying for an hour does not feel much different that playing the piano for an hour!

-Do you look at very much art? Do you have any favorites in the world of the Visual Arts?

In fact, I have always been very inspired by the analogies between visual arts and music especially from the end of the 19th century up till and including today. To me it seems that in any period of time in history, there never has been a closer correlation between those two. In fact, especially more “difficult” abstract music (such as the compositions by Webern and Schoenberg) can be much better understood by looking at the visual interpretations of very similar artistic views in works by painters such as Kandinsky. Personally, I am very fascinated by post-impressionism, which is characterized by painters such as Cézanne. They were especially interested in the different emotions and effects of colour, something that interests me in music a lot. Also, they tried (with pointillist techniques) to create a larger whole by using minute streaks of paint. In music, one also strives to make one coherent story of seemingly loose entities, which are the individual notes, until something recognizable appears. It is especially in this perspective that I find ideas for playing and interpreting music in visual arts.

To Be continued…..

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Three-Dimensional Sound…

An Interview with Magnar Åm In May, Naxos of America begins distribution of 2L, a Norwegian label known for releasing the world’s first audio-only Blu-Ray recording, Divertimenti, which subsequently received three Grammy® nominations. Founded in 2001 by Morten Lindberg, 2L’s … Read More →

Sonically Sound and Pounding…A Discussion with David Lang

Collin Rae, Naxos of America’s Marketing and Special Projects Manager, recently started a series of email discussions with composers, which have been posted on PMS #286 Appreciation Society, the Naxos of America blog. This discussion with composer David Lang yielded … Read More →